Switching to a Mediterranean diet and drinking wine with meals can prevent about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease, according to a new study.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine's website, a trial of over five years found that Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables had considerable heart benefits. The trial consisted of over 7,000 people in Spain, who were overweight, were smoker or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease followed a Mediterranean diet or low fat one.
It was discovered that low-fat diets were very hard for patients to maintain, while those assigned the Mediterranean diet stayed with it. Patients were also told to avoid commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and limit their consumption of dairy products and processed meats.
The diet was found to clearly reduce heart disease for those at high risk for it, but more research is needed for people with low risk. Those following the diet also did not lose weight, and most of them were taking blood pressure or diabetes drugs to lower their heart disease risk.
Until now, the evidence that the Mediterranean diet reduced risk of heart disease was weak and based mostly on studies that people from Mediterranean countries seemed to have lower rates of heart disease.
Some are skeptical of the findings, such as Dr. Caldwell Blakeman Esselstyn, who promotes a vegan diet and does not allow olive oil. Dr. Esselstyn also said people in the study still had heart attacks and strokes.
Source: The New York Times, "Mediterranean Diet Can Cut Heart Disease," Feb. 25, 2013.